France: Thousands evacuated as wildfires rage near French Riviera

Wildlife close to the French Riviera has forced thousands of people, including tourists at campsites to be evacuated by firefighters.

Many were given only minutes to leave as hundreds of firefighters were deployed in the Var region to the west of Saint-Tropez.

Fire officials say the blaze broke out on Monday and has consumed more than 5,000 hectares.

At least 19 people suffered smoke inhalation and three have been injured.

The fire ignited during an intense heatwave, with forecasters expecting temperatures of up to 35°C on Tuesday.

Southern France is the latest area in Europe to be ravaged by wildfires this summer as temperatures soar to record levels around the Mediterranean.

Scientists say heatwaves are becoming more likely and more extreme because of climate change driven by human-induced carbon emissions.

Greece, Turkey, Spain and Portugal are among the countries that have been grappling with wildfires that have claimed lives and destroyed homes.

The blaze in southern France started near the village of Gonfaron, about 50km west of of Saint-Tropez.

By Tuesday morning, it had swept across more than 5,000 hectares of forest and scrubland, the local fire department said.

Firefighting aircraft dumped water to help douse the flames. Var’s local government said 900 firefighters and 120 police had been deployed.

Most of the evacuations took place around the villages of Le Mole and Grimaud.

Seven campsites were cleared of tourists, the local prefect told BFMTV, and some were destroyed by the fire as the flames spread rapidly.

Tourists and residents in those areas have been sheltering in town halls, colleges and gyms. Holidaymakers told French media they were evacuated from hotels at short notice.